The Third Sunday in Advent.

On the Thorough and Diligent Examination of Conscience.

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Thorough and Diligent Examination of Conscience.

When the messengers sent by the high priests, as we read in the Gospel of to-day, asked John the Baptist the question: “Who art thou?” imagine that you see before you your Eternal Judge in that awful moment when your unhappy soul, just released from the body, stands naked and trembling before God, whose searching eye penetrates the heart and reins, and who will then address to you the eventful question: “Who art thou?” What will your answer be? It will be all the better for you, the more often, the more searchingly during your lifetime you have asked yourself this question in your examination of conscience. You ought daily thus to examine your conscience, for only consider:

1st. When the Eternal Judge puts this question to you, “Who art thou?” you will be forced to return a true answer, and this answer will seal your fate for all eternity. But if you of your own accord, whilst looking into your own heart, apply this question to yourself, your destiny is still in your own hand, and if answered truthfully it may prove the means of your salvation, if you amend your life. Up then, my soul! let your own conscience speak, before the voice of the terrible Judge is heard. Do not confine yourself to searching out the grosser faults, those that cannot fail to strike the eye, but extend your scrutiny, which is far more important, to how you have fulfilled the duties of your calling and office, what thoughts and desires lie hidden in the depths of your heart, what have been the intentions actuating your good actions, and especially what use you have made of the talent given into your keeping – the Religious state – whether you have not kept it wrapped up in a napkin like the servant who on that account – and mark it well, only on that account, because he had not traded with it – was condemned to eternal punishment. And when you are clear on this point, consider:

2d. That as there scarcely exists a greater bodily affliction than blindness, so there scarcely exists any mental affliction greater than spiritual blindness, the want of self-knowledge. On this account the saints often exclaimed with St. Augustine: “Lord, grant me to know myself.” Now this self-knowledge can only be attained by strict, assiduous self-examination. What a melancholy impression it makes on one to see consumptive patients, in the last stage of that dire disease, imagining that there is nothing much the matter with them, and forming all manner of plans as to what they will do in the future. All those who through neglect of examination of conscience are ignorant of the state of their souls may be said to be spiritually consumptive. Woe betide them when that appalling question is heard from the Judge s lips: “Who art thou?” and the disembodied spirit suddenly becomes aware of its hideous deformity, of which until then it had no suspicion. Take heed to avert so terrible a fate from yourself by careful examination of your conscience.

3d. Consider finally how a certain pious monk, much given to prayer, fasting and solitude, by name Stephen, when he lay on his deathbed, and the sins of his past life recurred to his memory, found solace and tranquillization of mind in the thought of the penitential tears, the flagellations and other works of penance wherewith he had atoned for them. But as he stood on the threshold of eternity, his conscience, rendered doubly acute at that moment, suddenly accused him of a fault which during his lifetime he had not recognized as a sin, and in accents of grief he exclaimed: “Alas! that is true, and what can I say for it? I have nothing to answer. But with God there is mercy.” Oh, ponder this well! if it happened that this pious man, of saintly life, so scrupulous in the examination of his conscience, quite forgot one of his past sins, how many faults will you overlook, who so frequently omit your examination of conscience for some trivial excuse, or do not leave time for it, and therefore hurry over it? And if that excellent Religious ventured to console himself with the thought of God’s mercy, because with that exception he had always examined his conscience with the utmost zeal, can you, careless servant, comfort yourself with the same reflection? Wherefore, my soul, from henceforth ask yourself daily when you examine your conscience: “Who art thou?” And if you are ever inclined to grow negligent over this most important duty, remember that heaven or hell, your whole eternal destiny, depends upon the answer to this one question: “Who art thou?”

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ

(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)

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Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come!

Hymn from the Office of Lauds for Advent

The solemn voice of the Precursor is heard, explaining the obscurity of the ancient figures; let our slumbers cease; Jesus is rising on our horizon.

Let the sluggish soul now rise, and stay no more upon this earth; a new star is shining, which will take all sin away.

Lo! the Lamb is sent to forgive us freely our debt; let us unite in tears and prayers, that we may obtain pardon.

That when He comes the second time, filling the world with fear, He may not have to punish us for our sins, but may protect us in mercy.

Power, honour, praise, and glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayers from the Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Advent

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.

R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

V. Incline unto my aid, O God.

R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to Thy law, and strict obedience to Thy commands; that by the help of Thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

V. O Lord God of hosts, come and deliver us.

R. Show Thy face, and we shall be saved.

V. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.

R. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from Thee.

V. The Lord shall rise upon thee, O Jerusalem!

R. And His glory shall be seen upon thee.

Bend Thine ear, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to our prayers, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation; who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

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Novena for Advent

Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! To hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

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